Thoth “God of Intellect” is an ancient Egyptian deity. In art, he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His feminine counterpart was Seshat, and his wife was Ma’at. He was the god of the Moon, wisdom, knowledge, writing, hieroglyphs, science, magic, art and judgment. Thoth’s chief temple was located in the city of Hermopolis (Ancient Egyptian: ḫmnw /χaˈmaːnaw/, Egyptological pronunciation: “Khemenu”, Coptic: Ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Shmun). Later known as el-Ashmunein in Egyptian Arabic, the Temple of Thoth was mostly destroyed before the beginning of the Christian era. It’s very large pronaos was still standing in 1826 but was demolished and used as fill for the foundation of a sugar factory by the mid-19th century. Thoth played many vital and prominent roles in Egyptian mythology, such as maintaining the universe, and being one of the two deities (the other being Ma’at) who stood on either side of Ra’s solar barque. In the later history of ancient Egypt, Thoth became heavily associated with the arbitration of godly disputes, the arts of magic, the system of writing, and the judgment of the dead.
Name spellings reflect known sound changes from earlier Egyptian such as the loss of ḏ palatalization and merger of ḥ with h i.e., initial ḏḥ > th > tʰ. The loss of pre-Coptic final y/j is also common. Following Egyptological convention, which eschews vowel reconstruction, the consonant skeleton ḏḥwty would be rendered “Djehuti” and the god is sometimes found under this name. However, the Greek form “Thoth” is more common. According to Theodor Hopfner, Thoth’s Egyptian name written as ḏḥwty originated from ḏḥw, claimed to be the oldest known name for the ibis, normally written as hbj. The addition of -ty denotes that he possessed the attributes of the ibis. Hence Thoth’s name would mean “He who is like the ibis”, according to this interpretation.
Attributes Thoth’s roles in Egyptian mythology were many. He served as scribe of the gods, credited with the invention of writing and Egyptian hieroglyphs. In the underworld, Duat, he appeared as an ape, Aani, the god of equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the deceased’s heart against the feather, representing the principle of Maat, was exactly even. The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self-produced. He was the master of both physical and moral (i.e., divine) law, making proper use of Ma’at. He is credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth, and everything in them. The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic. The Greeks further declared him the inventor of astronomy, astrology, the science of numbers, mathematics, geometry, surveying, medicine, botany, theology, civilized government, the alphabet, reading, writing, and oratory. They further claimed he was the true author of every work of every branch of knowledge, human and divine.
History Thoth was a Moon god. The Moon not only provides light at night, allowing time to still be measured without the Sun, but its phases and prominence gave it a significant importance in early astrology/astronomy. The perceived cycles of the Moon also organized much of Egyptian society’s rituals and events, both civil and religious. Consequently, Thoth gradually became seen as a god of wisdom, magic, and the measurement and regulation of events and of time. He was thus said to be the secretary and counselor of the Sun god Ra, and with Ma’at (truth/order) stood next to Ra on the nightly voyage across the sky. Thoth became credited by the ancient Egyptians as the inventor of writing (hieroglyphs) and was also considered to have been the scribe of the underworld. For this reason, Thoth was universally worshipped by ancient Egyptian scribes. Many scribes had a painting or a picture of Thoth in their “office”. Likewise, one of the symbols for scribes was that of the ibis.